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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 14:57 GMT
Are you more promiscuous than ever?
People in the UK are having an increasing number of sexual partners and at least one in ten people has caught a sexually transmitted disease.

According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, "risky" sex has become far more common, with overlapping relationships and visits to prostitutes all increasing.

The study of 11,161 people between the ages of 16 and 44 from across the UK found that only one in five men and one in four women have had one sexual partner over the course of their lives.

The survey seems to bear out figures from the Public Health Laboratory Service figures, which show that rates of key sexually-transmitted diseases have rocketed while HIV infection is showing no sign of decline.

Are you more promiscuous than ever? Do you take your sexual health seriously enough?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Believe it or not, people lie about sex

Adam, UK
It's important that we don't take this sort of research too seriously. Believe it or not, people lie about sex. This survey tells us that men have twice as many sexual partners as women. Try to figure out how that could happen if everybody is telling the truth.
Adam, UK

I think the most interesting result of this survey is the fact that the number of men the average woman has sex with is less than the number of women the average man has sex with. No one seems to have explained this. Maybe there are times when a woman thinks it "doesn't count" and a man thinks it does.
James Allwright, Buckinghamshire, UK

There's nothing wrong with sex in itself. However, I believe that one of the biggest problems at the moment is that we have ceased to view people of the opposite sex (or the same sex if that's how you get off) as individuals in their own right, but see them only as potential sexual partners. We have forgotten that there's more to forming a relationship than just sex.
Andy Dawson, UK

Random sex can be exciting and fun

Graham, UK
I respect a person's choice to remain virgin until married, but let's face it, religion doesn't motivate all of us and I for one am a bit tired of the moral snobbery of some of these people. I for one find that sex in a loving relationship is always better than random sex but that doesn't mean that one's wrong and the other's right! Random sex can be exciting and fun, and there's no reason why it can't be responsible too.
Graham, UK

I can't believe that given that about 80% of these comments are from people apologising for not being 'normal' and being bound by Catholic guilt. If these proportions reflected the 'real world' then I am very worried about a puritanical backlash from the holier than thous. God forbid
Brodie, Australia

Sex is a fundamental part of being human. Its a healthy part of life. I respect all these people for wanting to retain their virginity until goodness knows when, but wish they'd stop telling us healthy, normal individuals how immoral we all are. It's ridiculous - I'd rather be healthy and normal than some frustrated sexless soul who's constantly in battle with their own conscience.
Kevin, UK

I believe that sex belongs to a loving relationship, which results in marriage

Oliver John, Netherlands
I believe that sex belongs to a loving relationship, which results in marriage. Thus, at 26, I am still a virgin and do not see myself breaking off from this until marriage. The big hype in the media about 'sex and sexual gratifications' does not sway my opinion on sex. Condoms and contraceptives have led to a drastic increase in promiscuous attitudes all over the world. And what are the consequences - higher divorce rates, less stable relationships, broken families and disheartened children. I'd rather stick to my 'old-fashioned view' of sex and remain 'sane' than adopt a 'modern' view, which drives us more and more into our animalistic instincts rather than a rational approach to sex and relationships.
Oliver John, Netherlands

Chance would be a fine thing!

Justina, UK

When people talk about the moral decline in this country, which morals are they talking about? Why is it immoral to have multiple sexual partners? If you referring to the morals of our ancestors then it is perfectly acceptable to be racist and completely immoral for a woman to get and education.
Paul, UK

Who's been having my share?
Andy W, UK

For me the best sex is with a loving partner and in a trusting relationship but that's just me - and it's after having tried the alternatives. Different people have different needs and desires and they should not repress them. More importantly, they should not attempt to preach and pontificate at others.
Charles Moore, Scotland

As long as safe sex is practised, there is no reason why we should not be enjoying ourselves. I say long live Kinky sex!
Mitra Nath, London, UK

Sex belongs within a loving marriage and should primarily be a demonstration of love rather than a self-indulgent sport

Rashel, Bangladesh
I am a 26-year-old virgin and proud of it. I do not see the need for multiple sexual partners. Neither do I consider sexual compatibility to be a valid argument. Sex belongs within a loving marriage and should primarily be a demonstration of love rather than a self-indulgent sport. When will people realise that sex education is more than teaching people the ins and outs.
Rashel, Bangladesh

Too much sex is good for the taxpayer. It results in lots of children in fragile partnerships, which end up yielding suitable cash cows for the child support agencies. Plenty of sex is good. Plenty of unwanted children is bad, unless you're a professional single mother, in which case it's a goldmine.
Matthew, UK

As a Christian, I think it is pathetic that more and more humans tend to become like animals, having no sanctity for lifelong partnerships, and instead satisfying uncontrolled lust.

A person's sex life is a matter of personal choice. That being said, I believe it is a better choice to wait until marriage. Your virginity is the one gift you can only give away once, so why not give it to the person you're going to grow old with? People say that waiting is too hard. I agree, it is very hard. At 24 years old and still waiting, I believe that someone is waiting for me and that will make it all worthwhile.
Peter R, Canada

Condoms are not foolproof, including the fools that trust them with their lives

Chris, USA
I've been married 17 years and my sex life is great and it always has been. And it's because we followed God's design of sex for marriage and we don't have the mental pollution of other partners. Condoms are not foolproof, including the fools that trust them with their lives.
Chris, USA

When it comes to sexual practices in this modern age it seems that the majority of us forget nature's purpose for the act. Namely the creation of children. I fear that society's view of sex as a recreational activity is leading to more personal instability, irresponsibility, and unhappiness than we like to let on.
Brian Miller, Utah, USA

I had sex with three different partners last weekend and none of them knew anything about the others. And I wore condoms, honest. I'm only 19 - let me sow my oats. As long as nobody gets hurt promiscuity is a good sport for one's youth.
John, UK

Like Andrew from Scotland, my wife and I were virgins when we met. Although we did not wait for marriage we have been together for 10 years now and married for four and are both very glad to have had only each other as partners. In our case it happened by accident rather than by design, but it has worked well for us. I don't want to disparage other people's ways of living but I think promiscuity is promoted endlessly in modern society in an unbalanced way because the negative aspects (which can be emotional as well as physical) are glossed over. People, especially the young, should not be made to feel that their sex life is only healthy if they have many partners.
Nick, Australia

It is a shame for the UK that the royalty does not set a high level of morality for the citizens. Bad things always start at the top of the ladder in a society.
Sharad Bhuskute, Seattle, WA, USA

Perhaps if there was less stigma behind going to clinics to get tested for things, this would be less of a problem. A lot of STD's are spread because people are unaware they have them. Introduce compulsory testing for all, then those who find out they have things will be able to get them treated and avoid passing them onto others. Sounds a little draconian, but would likely be effective.
Andrew, UK

Unfortunately there are still many young people who grow up in ignorance

J Cahill, UK
It was quite obviously never natural for many people to abstain from sex before marriage and remain in lifelong one-to-one relationships. The only thing that enforced that were lack of birth-control methods as well as pressure of family and society. Now that things have changed in that respect we see the natural inclination of people to do what they always wanted to but couldn't.
Unfortunately there are still many young people who grow up in ignorance. This can be due to either their parents' embarrassment or ill-conceived ideas of ensuring their offspring remain "innocent" for as long as possible. Either way it puts them at risk of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. This is what we should address.
J Cahill, UK

It's a real shame our people seem to care less and less about the long term. It's almost acceptable for people to get together, have children, then have affairs/splits or whatever. Almost with little or no regard for the children they bring into this world. It's bad enough our morality is fast going downhill, but now it's almost fashionable.
Michelle, UK

Oh for Pete's sake, stop whining. We're beginning finally to throw off the ridiculous moral straitjacket that the Victorians gave us, and that is a GOOD THING.
Young people are having more sex because it's fun, because it's enjoyable, and most of all simply because they can. Provided it's consensual, and they use contraception/STD protection, who gives a monkeys?
Will, UK

Be sensible enough to practise safe sex and live your life!

Alison, UK
I cannot believe the comments from Ed. The only way to stay healthy is to abstain? At 26 I would seriously question his 'healthiness' in having these views! There is nothing wrong with being a virgin and I was until the age of 20, but what is seriously wrong is the belief that if you close your eyes and deny your body what it wants. Be sensible enough to practise safe sex and live your life!
Alison, UK

I am married to the first and only woman I made love to. You may think that this is weird or that I am unlucky, but actually it is a precious thing about our relationship. Other people tell us that after 3 years of marriage they are amazed that we are still so much like boyfriend and girlfriend. Don't underestimate the value of virginity and marriage.
Andrew, Scotland

So Ten partners makes you promiscuous? Hardly! That would be around one partner a year for a thirty year old who hasn't yet found the "perfect" partner.
Life is not a fairy tale where you get it right first time.

Society represses sexuality and yet violence and aggression are encouraged - especially in mainstream TV and movies. A little more promiscuity and less violence should be encouraged.
Dave, NZ

Frankly as long as its safe sex with consenting adults, what's the problem?

Jennifer, UK
Sex, its been around for thousands of years, its not something that youth culture invented. In years (centuries) gone by there was just as much of it going on as there is now. Frankly as long as its safe sex with consenting adults, what's the problem?
Jennifer, UK

I think that the media has led to many young people being very insecure about their appearance and desirability. To them being promiscuous acts as a social reward and makes them feel accepted.
Rob Davies, UK

I don't see a problem with increased sexual activity among the population. As long as people are old enough, and both consent, and it is not an affair - why not enjoy sex with each other. It's a natural desire.
Jason, UK

It's time for the government to come out from their Ivory Towers

John, North England
I do take my sexual health seriously, and although I have known a number of sexual partners, I can say that I have always been safe.
My Brother has Aids, and despite the fact that this comes into conversation long before I sleep with a woman (I can't be bothered with one night stands), it seems that people are willing to play Russian roulette with their own lives, and mine.
It's time for the government to come out from their Ivory Towers. They should spend some of their (our) money on public awareness campaigns for something more than buying a TV Licence...
John, North England

Am I more promiscuous than ever? What kind of a question is that? You're bending the facts by assuming that I was promiscuous in the first place!
Actually, I'm less promiscuous than ever. Over the years I've become more fussy and discerning about my choice of potential partner. Or they have. Either way, something's gone wrong.
Chris B., England

No longer is it taboo to talk about how many partners you have had

John, UK
Sex is a great sport and I think people have always been promiscuous (me included) its just at this time it is a subject that people find more easy to talk about than ever. No longer is it taboo to talk about how many partners you have had. Just because the number of people that you have slept with does not mean you are not careful about your health. I know I am always careful and although I don't carry a condom with me, I always make sure I have one when needed.
John, UK

Promiscuity is tacitly celebrated by the media and advertisers, and often perceived as fashionable behaviour. Very few of the negative aspects of promiscuity are discussed, so it's hardly surprising that the UK has experienced such a huge shift in sexual attitudes.
Steve James, UK

Perhaps I am only responding to this, because my view goes against the norm. I would, however; still like to make it known that I am a 26-year-old virgin and proud of it. I believe the only way to be truly sexually healthy is to abstain from sex until marriage and then remain faithful until death. Call me old-fashioned, but it's still the only sure way of avoiding STDs and unwanted pregnancy. I do not see the need for multiple sexual partners, neither do I consider sexual compatibility to be a valid argument.
Sex belongs within a loving marriage and should primarily be a demonstration of love, rather than a self-indulgent sport. Condoms may protect your body, but they don't protect your mind. When will people realise that sex education is more than teaching people the ins and outs. Young people need to understand the responsibilities than come with it.
Ed, Germany (British Citizen)

It's insane to expect people not to have sex

Rob Harris, UK
I think our research scientists need to spend less time on frivolous studies such as the muesli conundrum, and produce some cures for these diseases pronto! It's insane to expect people not to have sex, and condoms are not always available.
Rob Harris, UK

It has nothing to do with being promiscuous (what an old fashioned term, anyway). Whether or not you have more than one partner, you should use contraception - preferably a condom. End of problem.
Desirée, UK

No, I'm definitely less promiscuous, in part because I've bypassed that time of my life, but mostly because I have no interest in it anymore.
However, and I know this will upset some, I think it's perfectly normal for young adults to be promiscuous when they're single. Not ideal, but better to do it early instead of later when there's a spouse and children involved. And, it obviously always needs to be safe sex. But if it's safe, promiscuous sex doesn't bother me. To each his own.
Liz Musch, France

All the medicine in the world and social programs are in vain if the continuing strong moral disinclination, that people all over the world carry, towards sex is not corrected. It is becoming not only socially acceptable, but also an issue of pride (shameless) to have more than one sexual partner, extra-marital affairs etc. From the viewpoint of a 26-year-old, I cannot see where we are heading.
Amalan, India

I cannot see this getting any better, unless these youngsters manage to find their morals

Will Faulkner, UK
I feel that we are most definitely more promiscuous than ever. This is down to a number of reasons, namely that younger people are having more sex.
I am not surprised that the STD rate is rising, although we have contraception available almost everywhere we go, there are still people who will get drunk and ignore the risks.
I cannot see this getting any better, unless these youngsters manage to find their morals and take some tips from their parents. The 60s were a little wild, though I think that these young people today are simply 'gambling' with their health by being so promiscuous.
Will Faulkner, UK

Frankly, I'm surprised that the proportions of people with only one sexual partner are so high. With people marrying later, and higher divorce rates, I find this the most astonishing statistic.
Antonia, London

Am I one of the few who intends to keep one partner for their whole lives? As we see the continuing moral decline in our country, the spread of sexual diseases, and problems caused by people being unfaithful (such as broken families, which affects innocent children), why can't people put two and two together, and see that these things are all related?
Matthew Wilson, England

I believe sex is addictive, just like any drug in the brain. The easier social opinion on sex has caused more people to explore this aspect of themselves, possibly not for the better.
Dan, UK

I don't think it has anything to do with the number of partners you have but more to do with education and respect for yourself. We are no longer able to think it won't happen to us so we have to take responsibility for ourselves and protect ourselves.
EJ green, UK

See also:

30 Nov 01 | Health
'Promiscuous' Britain uncovered
27 Nov 01 | Health
Unprotected sex risks young lives
30 Mar 99 | Health
Online sex carries health risk
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